The Graphic Arts Group promotes the study and interpretation of the graphic arts and encourages the exchange of information and ideas among Courtauld staff, research students and other London-based scholars, who share an interest in prints and drawings.
The group is convened by Ketty Gottardo and Sarah Vowles, and meets once a term either in the British Museum Prints & Drawings Department or the Prints & Drawings Study Room at The Courtauld to examine collectively and discuss a selection of works from the collection chosen around a given theme.
Previous topics have included: artists’ sketchbooks; signs of authorship: signatures, inscriptions and marks; sculpture and the graphic arts; after life; colours in prints and drawings; copies; mise-en-page; and reversal/duplication.
Professor Chris Fischer, curator of the show, led a 5 hour tour, during which the group examined and discussed together many of the works.This was followed by half-a-day in the print room, where participants gave short presentations on drawings from the collection, followed by informal discussions.
The group consisted of Courtauld students (MA and PhDs), curators and academics. On this occasion we reconnected with the Courtauld’s former curator of drawings, Dr Stephanie Buck, who joined us from Dresden with her colleague Dr Marion Heisterberg.
In the Summer term, the Graphic Arts Group session was held at the Courtauld, where Anita Viola Sganzerla and Deanna Petherbridge, curators of ‘Artists at Work‘, led an insightful visit in which the drawings in the exhibition were analysed and discussed by the group.
At the end of October, the Graphic Arts Group paid a visit to former Courtauld curator Dr Stephanie Buck, now Head of the Kupferstich-Kabinett, within the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD). We were generously hosted for a few hours within the prints and drawings study room, where plans are already afoot for Rembrandt’s 350th Anniversary in 2019. Kate Edmondson, paper conservator at The Courtauld who is contributing to the Dresden Rembrandt catalogue, was also part of the GAG group. The curatorial team offered us a fascinating glimpse into their overall exhibition theme, arranged around the concept of Rembrandt’s ‘mark’. Their panoramic approach will explore facets such as Rembrandt’s mark-making as a draughtsman, the physical traces of his teaching methods on students’ drawings and the considerable impact that he would make on later artists from Goya to Käthe Kollwitz. This pioneering research promises a rich display next year.
Following a close look at such masterpieces as the tender drawing of Saskia Sitting up in Bed and a series of etched states of the Entombment, we delved further into the Dresden collection. In time-honoured GAG tradition, group members took it in turns to present works for discussion. Our varied interests and specialisms led to a panoply of works on paper being set upon the easels: figure studies by Filippino Lippi, a glowing drapery study by Ghirlandaio, a precious Botticelli metalpoint on blue paper and an extraordinary Goya watercolour executed smudgily on ivory, among others.
As if our hosts had provided insufficient treats on our first afternoon at the Kupferstich-Kabinett, we were welcomed back again the following day for a private tour of their current exhibition, The Realm of Possibilities — Italian 16th Century Drawings. Showcasing recent research that exhibition curators Dr Marion Heisterberg and Dr Gudula Metze have carried out into the SKD’s holding of Italian drawings, the exhibition aims to introduce a general public to the strengths of the collection as well as key issues related to drawings. Various functions of drawings are considered, including drawings as designs for decorative objects, drawings made in the planning phase of paintings, studies aimed at capturing poses, and portraiture. Highlights include a balletic series of figure studies by Baccio Bandinelli, which document one sculpture from multiple angles and a positively ghoulish study for a lamp formed from a skull, attributed to Giulio Romano. We were delighted to witness artistic process in all of its vividness and experimentation, through studying Correggio’s sketch of the Madonna with St. George, which corresponds to a showstopping altarpiece in the neighbouring Gemäldegalerie.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip, and a new discovery for many of us!